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The abolishment of the court is a measure taken by commissioners in an
effort to cut costs in regards to the fiscal 1996 county budget, to be
drawn up later this year.
However, attorney Walter Holcombe said he felt the move would offer
little if any savings to the county.
"If we take a look at the five-year average you can see that this court
has made a profit," said Holcombe.
"No court should make money, but this one does," Holcombe said. "I don't
know why arrests have gone down within the last two years, but if you
take a look at the 10-year average you will see that this court does
"I just wanted to say that maybe you haven't looked into the value when
you passed to abolish the court-at-law. It can work, it has worked and
will work," he said.
"Some cases sent to the court-at-law need an experienced legal
individual and you're not qualified," Holcombe said, referring to County
Judge Jimmy B. Galindo, who would assume some of the court-at-law duties
currently handled by Judge Lee Green.
Others would be taken over by 143rd District Court Judge Bob Parks,
because Galindo does not have a legal degree.
Holcombe's claims were disputed by Reeves County Attorney Bill Weinacht.
"I don't want the police to go out and file a bunch of cases just to pay
for a judge's job, that's a disgraceful way to run a court," Weinacht
"They're out fining all the poor Mexican people to pay for a fat cat's
salary that doesn't do anything," said Weinacht. "They stop every
individual coming out of such places as the Oasis Lounge, but they never
stop anybody coming out of the Country Club.
"Then they want to bring them in here and have us fine them to death
just to pay for that judge's office and I think that's a disgraceful
thing to do," he said. "And it's all those people that can't afford
those fines, anyway."
It's a disgrace to encourage law enforcement officials to go out and
file a bunch of these cases just to pay for a judge," said Weinacht.
"I think your comments and letters were not accurate," said Galindo, who
was referring to some letters Holcombe had written in regards to keeping
"For instance, your letter describes me as a lesser qualified person,"
"You are lesser qualified when it comes to the court-at-law," said
"The issue here is that we have to change course, in regards to our
financial situation," said Galindo.
No action can be taken to abolish the court-at-law until bills are
passed in both the Texas House and Senate approving a vote on the action.
"Even if the Senate bill passes, we'll still give the taxpayers a chance
to vote for it," said Precinct 3 Commissioner Herman Tarin.
"If we were to abolish the court, we could trim $53,620 from the
budget," said Galindo.
"I think it pays for itself and you need to get peace offers in here to
find out why crime has decreased," said Holcombe. "This isn't just about
money, but the benefit of having someone knowledgeable in here."
"The economy is down right now and so is crime," said Precinct 4
Commissioner Bernardo Martinez. "We don't need it (the court),
regardless of what the argument is."
In a related matter, commissioners received a report from County Auditor
Lynn Owens in regard to the financial situation the county is facing.
"We are behind at this point of what we had anticipated," said Owens.
"Revenues are down."
"We need to do something about expenses if we can't help the revenues,"
said Owens. "We're paying fewer amounts, but we are also collecting
"The new phone system has increased our commissions (at the Reeves
County Jail and Law Enforcement Center)," said Galindo. "Allcomm
Communications have increased our commissions on the phones the inmates
use, based on automation the company did."
Commissions from the phones have increased from 28 percent to 42 percent
based on the company's automation that they have just completed.
Line-item transfers included to move money for legal fees to pay for a
lawsuit the county is facing. "There's one lawsuit against the LEC at
this time and we need some money for legal fees," said Owens.
Personnel and salary changes included the hiring of Joe Baeza for the
third newly-created lieutenant's position at the LEC, at the salary of
$20,000; Gilbert Martinez as a correction officer at the LEC at $15,000
per year, with one year probationary period; Elias Garcia, a
correctional officer at the LEC at $15,000 and Eric Salcido as a
correctional officer at the salary of $15,000 with both being on
probation for a year.
Jesse Baeza was transferred to the County Jail as shift supervisor at a
salary of $18,500 and Pam Bustillos was appointed transportation officer
at $15,200. The moves were made as part of a deal between Reeves County
and Sheriff Andy Gomez in which Gomez gave up control of the LEC to
avoid removal of prisoners by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
An update on the lack of assistant warder situation was heard by LEC
Warden Joe Trujillo, who was reinstated in that post under the March 31
"We have two individuals which are pursuing at the time to fill that
position," said Trujillo. "One is fixing to retire in June and the other
one is in the Air Force and has a master's degree."
"Either of those individuals are truly qualified," he said. "Dale
Brewer, who is employed with the BOP was here last week with his wife
and really liked the area, he was very impressed and we're having
positive contact with him," said Trujillo. "He seemed very interested in
coming down here."
Commissioners approved change orders for the 96-bed addition at the LEC
which is near completion. The change orders were an increase from
$123,200 to $128,150 to install wall panels, anchor plates and drill
concrete panels together.
The increased amount will be taken from the contingency fund. The
addition, which had been scheduled for completion in February, should
now be finished by May 20.
A bid was awarded to Colt Chevrolet to purchase a full-size vehicle to
be used at the LEC. The Chevrolet Caprice Classic for $18,097 for the
Reeves County Detention Center would also serve to transport inmates.
In other business, Precinct 3 Commissioner W.J. Bang was appointed
health officer for Reeves County and the court approved over-axle/over
gross weight permits for Sitco Corporation and Spurlock Company
A proclamation stating April as Fair Housing Month was approved.
Storms first moved into the Permian Basin Monday night, bringing rain
and hail to the areas around Big Spring, Lamesa and Seminole. Rains
arrived in Alpine early Tuesday morning, but didn't make it up to Reeves
County until the afternoon.
Pecos had received just 1.09 inches of rain in the first three months of
the year, as the dry weather which began in mid-1993 continued.
Tuesday's 1.33 inches of rain brings the year-to-date total up to 2.42
inches, according to the local National Weather Service reporting
The rain was a welcome site for farmers in the Coyanosa area. They
received 1 1/2 inches of rain, with showers continuing throughout the
The Texas A & M Experiment Station seven miles west of Pecos reported
1.05 inches of rain Tuesday and Balmorhea also reported about an inch of
rain in that area.
Toyah didn't receive quite as much rain as the surrounding towns, with
just under an inch reported there.
Skies over the Pecos Valley cleared before sunrise this morning, and all
of West Texas should see rains end during the early evening and skies
should begin clearing during the night.
Light rain fell across the Permian Basin southward into the Concho
Valley and Edwards Plateau in West Texas early today.
In South Texas, skies will be clearing from the west tonight. The
showers and thunderstorms should end by early evening, forecasters say,
though flash flooding is still possible in some areas.
Widespread rain dampened much of North Texas early today, but rainfall
amounts were down considerable from Tuesday when heavy rainfall produced
widespread flash flooding.
Showers were reported over the Hill Country and in South Central Texas
early today. Some patchy fog was reported in eastern and central areas
of South Texas.
Early morning temperatures were in the 40s and 50s in West Texas, the
50s in North Texas and in the 600s in South Texas. Extremes ranged from
38 at Dalhart to 69 at McAllen.
Even though Reeves County still has a contract with the Bureau of
Prisons, 126 federal inmates have already been transferred from the LEC
since the firing of Trujillo by Andy Gomez on Wednesday.
The firing came as the result of action taken earlier Wednesday by
Trujillo against three LEC employees, who were transferred to jobs at
Reeves County Jail under Friday's agreement between Gomez and Reeves
County. Trujillo was reinstated two days later under the agreement, in
which Gomez agreed to give up control of the 535-bed facility.
"Reeves County still has a contract with the BOP, we're working very
hard to correct areas with problems," said the BOP's Monitor for the
LEC, Tommy Duncan.
"The only thing now, is we should live by the terms of the contract,"
said Reeves County Jimmy Galindo.
"The problems were caused by political interference," said Duncan. "The
BOP had been assured that the sheriff would not create political
A 96-bed addition, including isolation cells mandated by the BOP, are in
the final stage of construction. They are scheduled to open on May 20,
though it may take longer to get the prison back to full capacity.
"At this point we're going to step back and watch for a few months to
ensure that no political interference in regards to the prison will take
place," said Duncan, adding that the BOP has quickly restocked the LEC
with inmates in the past after problems with county officials.
"This time we're going to take this attitude for a few more months,"
said Duncan. "This has happened before, this type of incidence where we
were assured of the problem being removed and then a few months later
the same problem arises."
"This time we'll be watching for a longer period of time to see what
happens," said Duncan.
Duncan also stated that no definite number on the total of inmates
removed can be recorded at this time. "It's too early to put a definite
number on that," he said.
"I'm here to go in and monitor operations, see what kind of effect it's
having on employee," said Duncan. "And see what needs to be done to get
back on track."
"I'll be watching...until my supervisors feel comfortable with the
situation and where they feel the political interference has been
completely obliterated," he said.
Bureau of Prisons legal individuals are currently looking over the
contract between Sheriff Gomez and Reeves County.
"They'll be looking at that contract and seeing what else needs to be
done," Duncan said.
BOP pays Reeves County $33.50 per man-day for federal inmates. Should
the daily census drop below 450 the rate goes up to $35.26. For a daily
census of 0-349, the man-day rate is $40.45.
Trujillo said on Monday that there were 466 inmates currently in the Law
Trujillo said this morning that facility operations are running normal.
"We are going through a transition, but everything is on a positive
note," said Trujillo.
Currently the facility is housing 466 prisoners with 22 scheduled to be
shipped out this afternoon and "I don't know when the extractions are
going to stop," added Trujillo.
Bureau of Prisons Site Monitor Tommy Duncan and Contract Oversight
Specialist David Suddaby were at the LEC this morning, but were
unavailable for comment.
The prison is currently about 60 inmates below capacity. The capacity at
the LEC, for which almost all inmates are supplied by the BOP, will rise
to about 620 inmates in May, when the current construction project on
the west side of the prison is completed.
BOP Corrections Manager Bobby Moore of San Antonio told commissioners
they would be receiving a 90 day notice next week of the agency's
options under it's contract with Reeves County, following a Wednesday's
firing of LEC Warden Joe Trujillo by Sheriff Andy Gomez.
Gomez, who appointed Trujillo to the post 18 months ago, said following
the meeting he was willing to relinquish control of the 524-bed prison
if it would keep employee from losing their jobs.
Commissioners took no actions on the vacant warden's position after
hearing from Moore and the bureau's LEC Monitor Tommy Duncan during the
meeting. But a second special meeting of commissioner's court has been
called for 4 p.m. today in the third floor courtroom to discuss the
BOP officials had talked with Gomez and commissioners in a March 17
special meeting about not interfering with actions taken by Trujillo.
But he was dismissed by Gomez after the warden fired one LEC employee
and demoted two others.
The actions were detailed in letters the three received from Trujillo on
Tuesday. Two of the three have since filed suit against Reeves County
over Trujillo's actions in 143rd District Court.
Duncan and Moore gave a brief outline of the BOP's decision to pull the
prisoners from the LEC due to political interference.
"Let me start by reiterating what we discussed at the Commissioner's
Court meeting held on March 17," said Duncan. "I pointed out then that
the Bureau of Prisons would not tolerate political interference."
"Letters and monitoring reports have indicated that an underlying
factor, is what we term as political interference in the operations of
the facility," Duncan said. "Our Statement of Work specifically states
that a single Chief Executive Officer (warder) will be held responsible
for the facility," he said.
"The history indicates that has not been the case," said Duncan.
"Recently we received a letter from Sheriff Andy Gomez regarding actions
take by Joe Tujillo," he said.
"While we recognize the sheriff's side, we did an investigation into
these allegation," said Duncan. "We cannot concur with those
recommendations, we feel that he has done an exceptionally good job,"
When asked after the meeting about his March 17 agreements to comply
with the statement of work, Gomez defended his actions.
"I still say what I did was right," Gomez said. "Something else came up
that made me some to that decision. I'm not going to apologize for what
But Gomez also said he was willing to make concessions, including giving
up control of the LEC, if it would protect the 135 jobs the prison
"I'm willing to have him (Trujillo) back, if it means it will help the
community," said Gomez. "I felt I had to do that because of allegations."
"If it takes me giving them the prison, I'll do it, just so that those
people won't be out of job. I want to help the community," he said. "I
want to do what's right for them."
The BOP has threatened to pull prisoners several times in the past over
the qualifications of the LEC's chief operating officer (warden).
Trujillo was appointed in September, 1993, after two previous interim
wardens named by the sheriff - including Trujillo's replacement on
Wednesday, J.J. Garcia - were rejected by the BOP.
"There have been several issues that throughout the years there has been
a deviation from the Statement of Work, since Joe Trujillo took office a
lot of these issues have been resolved," said Duncan.
"The service operations, the food service, improvements in library
service, recreation and staff morale has improved greatly under
Trujillo's supervision," said Duncan.
"We were amazed that with the major improvements in those areas, Andy
Gomez would choose to recommend terminating him," said Duncan.
"Our investigation revealed no facts that would substantiate any of the
allegation," said Duncan. "On March 17, you gentlemen (commissioners
along with Andy Gomez made the statement that you had faith in the
warden and that you would continue to support him.
"I reported that to my supervisors, to our amazement on March 29, the
sheriff did terminate Trujillo," said Duncan. "That leaves us with over
500 inmates without leadership.
"Our concern is for the safety of the inmates, safety of the staff and
operation of that facility," he said. "This leaves us with an
unacceptable situation with no qualified CEO to head the facility and
we're just trying to bring that to your attention."
"I have no comment to make," Moore said, "Except other than to say that
the documents are representative of the Bureau of Prisons on behalf of
the regional director and I want to make that very clear that we have
been in constant contact with our Dallas office and Washington, D.C.
"They are fully aware of the situation as you are aware that there is a
movement going on out there right now," he said.
The BOP began pulling out inmates at the facility shortly before 11 a.m.
and will continue to do so until the situation is resolved.
"We recommend that this situation be resolved," Moore said.
Both BOP officials said that the contract can be terminated within 90
days if the situation is not resolved, and that the county would be
receiving a letter formally notifying them of that fact next week.
"Let me reiterate one more time that we fully recognize that the sheriff
has legal authority to hire and fire any personnel at the LEC," said
Duncan. "Your contract with us indicates that you have delegated that
responsibility to the Chief Executive Officer.
"Now, to go beyond that we have a major concern about the safety of the
inmates at the facility," said Duncan.
He concluded by telling the commissioners and the public that the
situation needs to be corrected.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Lupe Garcia stated that he hopes we can work
this out to where they don't take drastic measures. "Leave the door
open," he told the sheriff.
"You're action was so drastic, it was such a quick decision," said
Precinct 3 Commissioner Dr. W.J. Bang.
The prison, which has a budget of over $7 million, is currently
undergoing and expansion which will bring capacity to more than 620
inmates. The LEC was over-capacity when the current crisis broke out,
and some of the BOP inmates were due for withdrawal to being the
facility back to its normal amount.
This morning's meeting and the one scheduled for this afternoon was held
under the emergency meeting provision of the Open Record Act. It allows
the commissioners court to meet under reasonably unforeseen
circumstances with a two-hour notice.
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Copyright 1996 Pecos Enterprise
324 S. Cedar, Box 2057, Pecos TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321